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CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF "CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR
THE PEOPLE, CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.
No. 157. New SERIES.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 2, 1847.
a singular occupation. He wore a sleeved waistcoat and THE SUPERNUMERARY CLASS.
small-clothes, and might have been taken for a groom In walking through the streets of a great town, one long out of place. His hat lay upon the ground and he might suppose it an easy matter to classify, at least in a was busy filling it with small stones from a he eat & general manner, the industrious inhabitants. From the little distance, walking rapidly, but not running, begrave merchant to the busy shopkeeper, and from him tween the two points and with such an earnest and to the lowest stall-vender, all have their peculiar avoca- anxious expression of countenance, that I could not tions ; day, even the street beggar may seem in some refrain from asking what was the matter. way to belong to the category, since mendicancy is with * A bet!' was the reply; and the bystander I had adhim a regular profession. But, after having appeared dressed bestowed upon his ignorant questioner a momento go through the whole circle of industry, we still find tary glance of mingled surprise and contempt. He a busy and numerous class left out, which it is impos- seemed, like the rest, to be an operative in some manusible to place under any of the heads we may have factory; and after an obvious struggle between his imagined. They have no trade, no tools, no masters, sense of duty and curiosity, laid down several halfpence and yet are never idle when they can help it; they near the hat, in token of his approbation of the young have no home, no family, no friends, and yet rarely man's activity and of his good wishes for his success, want a meal and a bed; they have no functions, no and hurried away. This example was speedily followed, duties, no privileges of citizens, and yet are integral though less liberally, by one or two others of the group, portions of the community to which they belong, and for the hour forbade any dallying, and I at length found come in various ways into social and business contact myself alone with the stone-picker. He looked at me with their fellows.
for an instant, and then along the road; but there being In London they form a portion—but only a portion no appearance of any more customers worth waiting -of that class whose name the statisticians tell us is for, he picked up the halfpence, shook the stones from Legion, who rise up every morning without knowing his hat, and clapping it on his head, like a man who where or how to get their breakfast. In this nume- has got well through some laudable employment, walked rous tribe, however, are included beggars, thieves, and off. But I was not disposed to part with him so easily. others who look to the chances of their disreputable pro So you have won your bet ?' said I, overtaking sessions; whereas the individuals we allude to are not him; and you are now, I presume, for breakfast ?' necessarily dishonest or ill-conducted, and have no call * Not yet,' replied he after a moment's hesitation, ing whatever. They have nothing to do, but are wil- during which I could see him scrutinise me from head ling to do anything; they have nowhere to go, but will to foot; "what is fourpence-halfpenny? How do I readily go anywhere ; they trust entirely to the chapter know that anything else will turn up between this and of accidents for their daily bread; and when they lie dinner-time?' down at night, without a farthing in their pockets, and What do you mean to do, then, to increase the sum ? without a claim upon the pallet they occupy extending Do you mean to make another bet with yourself ?' beyond the next morning, they congratulate themselves * No, no; that is well enough in its way when there is on having eaten and drunken throughout the day, and nothing else to be done; but I have now got a capital look forward with confidence to the morrow.
to begin the day with. There are worse dodges than I have said that they are not necessarily dishonest; picking up stones; but it is not respectable. I will but occasionally, when hard pressed, they have recourse turn these browns, master, into a white shilling before to expedients that have little beyond ingenuity to re- long, if I once make up my mind what lay to go upon.' commend them. The morning, for instance, is a trying I will put you upon plan,' said I: tell me how time, when the appetite is good, the air keen, and all you live, and where you live-give me a distinct notion those classes still in bed with whom it is possible to of what you do to earn your bread for the whole day, transact business without capital. It is necessary to and you shall have the shilling without further trouble.' begin the day; but how is it to be begun by one who * That would not be so easy,' replied he, 'as picking has no money, no calling, no credit, who will not steal, up stones. Bless you, I live nohow and nowhere, and I and who is ashamed to beg? Then must come the ex carn my bread just as it happens!' pedients I have hinted at; and one of these I can relate • Then tell me how it happens: give me the history from personal observation, since it is to it I owe my of a single day, so that it be a common day, and I shall knowledge of the hitherto unclassified species I would not grudge the money. Upon this hint he spake; and describe.
I am able, from the conversation that ensued, to make One morning, then, in the course of an early walk on a somewhat curious, though melancholy contribution, to the New Road, I was stopped by a group of passers-by, the history of social life. who had gathered round a young man engaged in rather This young man, who may be taken as the repre
sentative of his class, rises in the morning without a subject at all. He makes himself as like a groom in farthing in his pocket, without more clothes upon his appearance as he can; for a groom must be supposed to back than are necessary for the purposes of decency, be an adept at holding a horse. The remuneration is without property of any other kind in the world, and always silver; and, upon the whole, he is not diswithout a home to return to after passing the threshold pleased at the substitution of fourpenny-pieces for sixof the one which had sheltered him the night before. pences, having the sense to observe that there have Forth he goes, notwithstanding, with an assured look, been a great many more horses to hold since the reducan elastic step, and a heart full of the buoyant feelings tion of the cost. Still it is a hard service; for he has to of morning. If you ask him whither he is going, he hunt his prey from street to street, and sometimes, after will reply Nowhere.' His walk, in fact, has no deter- all, the inconsiderate rider does not dismount till he minate direction, and appears to have no termination. gets home. His quick, observant glance wanders on all sides in Towards the afternoon, the leading thoroughfares of search of something—he knows not what. But some the west end are thronged with beauty and fashion; for thing does not come. The air is crisp. The houses although it is not quite proper for å lady of any dishave a cold, clear look, and their roofs are well-defined tinction to go out, except in her carriage, after twelve against the light gray sky. London is not now the con- o'clock, she has the privilege of walking in certain ventional city of authors and painters, but an assemblage streets while the vehicle waits. The influence exercised of the most remarkable streets and squares in the world, by this class of the community upon the supernumerary surrounded by the most transparent of atmospheres. is very remarkable. He watches anxiously over every Not a thread of smoke is seen above the countless disarrangement of their dress, warning them, when houses; and the sun has already been able to exorcise necessary, that they are in danger of dropping their the misty shapes that during the night had haunted collar or their boa, and being ever at hand to pick up the river, which now rolls in a smooth, bright, cheerful the article should it actually fall. Sometimes he re, volume. The strange and almost awful silence which ceives only a sweet smile for his politeness: he would had brooded for several hours over the huge metro- rather have sixpence. But, in the meantime, he is far polis is broken. Groups of workmen pass by, their from neglecting the gentlemen, whom he frequently deep hoarse voices echoing in the empty streets; and admonishes to take care of their handkerchief. It is here and there, in all the principal thoroughfares, the said he sometimes pulls it out of the pocket himself a breakfast-stalls, set out with snowy table-cloths, smok- little farther, in order to give colour to the admonition ; ing coffee urns, and huge slices of bread and butter, have but for my part I am willing to believe, if he does so, fairly commenced business.
it is only to convince the proprietor more emphatically It is these last adjuncts of the picture which, to con- of his carelessness. In Paris, however, the supernumefess the truth, attract most of our supernumerary's raries, I admit, are not guiltless of analogous dodges ; attention; and his interest in them increases as the for I was myself the victim of one when passing along morning wears on. They began to appear with the the side of the Champs Elysées, next the Avenue de earliest peep of day, and will vanish when the streets Neuilly, where there is a barrier of posts to prevent are once more thronged with their busy population. horsemen from intruding on the footpath. These posts On the present occasion, it is probably with some feel are always newly painted, and an artist is in waiting, at ing of envy he sees numerous workmen regaling them. a few yards' distance, to rub your smeared skirts with selves previous to commencing their daily labours. For turpentine ! his part, he has to search for work before he can com It is not improbable that the young man may earn mence it; and at length, in hopelessness and hunger, enough by such philanthropic exertions to authorise a he has recourse to the dodge' I have described. visit to the a-la-mode beef-shop, where lie dines luxu
Passing over his paction with myself as something riously on sour, meat, and bread for a sum varying out of the usual routine, we must now follow him from three to five, or even more pence, according to through more familiar occurrences. Walking loung- appetite or funds. But this is not always the case ; ingly along the street, he is seen glancing down the for he has numerous rivals; and wet weather, when it areas, and entering into chat with the housemaids, occurs, is a great damper to his prospects. Still he is who have just opened the window-shutters. Business fertile in all kinds of expedients. He will sometimes does not present itself all at once; still it is some even have recourse to an execution, or anything equally amusement to converse on things in general with horrid, and hawk the history of the affair along the these young ladies, whom he styles 'ma'am,' and treats streets. In this case, so far from fearing the interwith much deference; while, on their part, they are ference of another, he always assumes a partner; and occasionally not loath to bestow a few condescending the two, taking different sides of the street, bawl words on a likely young fellow, though so far beneath out the same words in such a way as to render each them in station. But at length an opening for trade other alarmingly unintelligible. In winter, the super
In some house or other there is sure to be numerary fares a little worse than in summer, there broken glasses, bones, bits of useless metal, rags—any, being more bad weather in the former season; and thing, in short, of an utterly useless nature - which there is reason to believe that he and his brethren are Susan will not object to take a trifling sum for, rather sometimes forced to get up the melancholy cortège of than be at the trouble of throwing them into the dust-froze-out gardeners,' who perambulate the streets with bin; and having expended his capital on such merchan- a cabbage-stock for an ensign. It is also affirmed that, dise, the young man hastens away to sell it at a profit on the 1st of May, and for several days after, he perto the wholesale dealers.
forms the part of Jack-in-the-Green, who is supposed He is now able to breakfast; and walking being no by the deluded population to be an actual chimneytrouble to him, he does not scruple to go a considerable sweeper; and that, on the Gunpowder-Plot day, he masdistance to a favourite stall
, where the coffee is always querades as one of the bearers of that gigantic Guy who hot, and the bread and butter always thick. Here the is carried about in a handbarrow in quest of halfpence. tables are turned, for he has not to beg the lady to sell. These, however, are but occasional expedients, and Ile calls her mother;' and in addressing him, she I must return to his ordinary day. The chances of the says “Yes, sir,' and 'No, sir.'
twilight are not great for an honest supernumerary; and As the day advances, he betakes himself to the loca- indeed he may be said to retire from the streets at the lities where gentlemen are usually to be seen on horse- same hour with the upper classes when they go home to back; for he places considerable dependence upon the dinner. He reappears, however, somewhat earlier ; for service he may be able to render in holding a horse the playgoing bustle could hardly take place without while the rider dismounts. It is this part of his re- his having some hand in it. He purchases, on speculasources which influences his choice of a dress, when it tion, a quantity of bills; but he is no more a bill-seller is possible for him to exercise any volition upon such a at the doors of the theatres than he is a bill-sticker.
A STORY OF THE NEW YEAR,
These are regular businesses, to which the parties apply fusion of your senses, till you find yourself in the acthemselves as systematically as shopkeepers do to theirs; customed blaze of the drawing-room, in the midst of a while the supernumerary gives himself up, as usual, to brilliant party, who appear utterly unconscious that his erratic habits. He meets your carriage a full mile there is such a thing as fog in the world. from the place of resort, runs by its side at the risk of And the supernumerary? He has disappeared from life and limb, and flashes his bills in at the window. If our ken in the fog. With his public life ends his you buy the wrong one, it is no fault of his; and if you recorded history; and even I could not venture with buy any at all, you cannot think (at least if there be a certainty upon more than one other fact-namely, that lady with you) of taking change out of your sixpence. however great his earnings may have been during the
From the time the theatres are full, his exertions for day, he never enters the house he selects for his lair the good of the community begin to slacken, and he with more money in his pocket than the twopence he rather takes business as it comes, than makes a business requires to pay in advance for the accommodation. of looking for it. He will still, however, run with toler This is a melancholy picture, view it in what light able alacrity to open the door of a cab when the water- we will. There is sadness mingled even with the smile man is out of the way; although in this case he depends with which we watch his endless expedients; and the entirely upon the passenger's liberality, as the cabman sadness is the greater, that we know the picture to be does not consider himself bound, either in law or honour, true not merely of a few individuals, but of a numerous to give the customary halfpenny to a stranger. There class. What effect the advancement of education and is, indeed, some mystic tie between the cabman and the enlightenment may have upon this class, one can hardly waterman which I do not altogether comprehend. By surmise. We may hope that its members, for the time whom is the latter appointed? Through what influence being, may be gradually absorbed into new openings for does he maintain his state? These are questions I have regular industry; but the probability remains that their often asked; and yet, even now, I can only surmise places will be filled with others at least for a long space that he may owe his elevation to office, and permanence to come; for it can hardly be expected that the working in it, to the publican of the stand.
population of so vast a metropolis will, even in our surBut although the supernumerary feels by this time prising day, receive an order and arrangement which the need of rest, he is still equal to great emergencies; will leave behind no-Supernumeraries. and on the occasion of a fog, for instance, he displays an energy and perseverance which, in a man who has been running about ever since the first peep of daylight, are
THE DOCTOR'S FAMILY. nothing less than wonderful. A London fog is not like any other fog in the world. Elsewhere you have an In the country towns and villages of England there is impression, however faint and vague, of surrounding not, from January to December, a merrier festival than objects. You see clouds instead of houses, spectres the New Year. In London, and in those large commerinstead of trees, and men coming like shadows, and social towns which ape the Great Metropolis, it is not so. departing. In London you see nothing, feel nothing, There Christmas, with its accompaniments of plumbreathe nothing but fog :
pudding and mince pie, is all in all to the holiday lovers. "The world is void,
The Old Year steals out, and the New Year creeps in, The populous and the powerful are a lump
like a neglected friend or a poor relation after its more Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless
honoured predecessor, glad enough to pick up the A lump of death
crumbs and fragments of the latter's feast of welcome. Darkness has no need Of aid from them-she is the universe !"
No one seems to care about the New Year in London.
A few peals rung at midnight by the church bells tell Bat it is not exactly darkness, for that would be to some wakeful invalid or late reveller that the Old nothing worse than intense night: the fog has a skin- Year, with all its hopes and its pains, has gone by for deep semi-transparency, like that of Parian marble, ever; and perhaps next morning some man of business through which you see only a cold, hard, impenetrable looking over his diary, or some lady glancing at her subatance. As you are rattling along in your carriage pictured almanac, remembers the fact; or friend meetto a party, without visible horses or driver with no ing friend in the street just turns to wish “a happy streets, no lamps, no tokens whatever of a town, you New Year;' but that is all. Christmas is gone by, might fancy yourself transported through the realms with all its feasting and merry-making; and no one of space by the agency of enchantment. And this cares to welcome New-Year's Day. impression is confirmed, when a flare of lurid light But in the rural districts of England, and throughout appears suddenly at the window, illumining a set of Scotland, it is very different. There the festival of Newwild anxious features—a spectral face without body, Year’s Day is of as great importance as that of old which, after glaring at you for an instant, disappears. father Christmas himself
. Young people look forward This apparition is the supernumerary with his link; joyfully to dancing the Old Year out and the New and if the fog were only a little thinner, you would Year in. It is held unlucky that the New Year should see his brethren flitting about in troops-some gliding first dawn upon sleeping eyes ; so in every house all sit by the horses' heads, some stretching forth a welcome up until midnight to let the young stranger in. Then, arm to a bewildered traveller who, in madly attempt- as the clock strikes twelve, the family and guests rise ing to cross the street, has lost his way, but all engaged up and go in a mingled and noisy procession to the in such works as befit the friendly goblins of the hall-door, which is opened with formal solemnity by night. By and by there comes a crash; your car- the host; and thus the New Year is 'let in.' riage has come into collision with another, and a score It was New-Year's eve in the family of Dr James of phantom links are instantly upon the spot, and you Renwick. They were keeping it merrily, as befitting are able to see the frightened face of the lady in the the good old times, though it was not many new years opposite vehicle, who, arrayed as she is in ball cos- before this one of 1847 (May blessings attend those tume, looks like some fairy princess arrested by genii whose eyes meet this, says the writer in a parenthesis in her travels. The scene is heightened by the voices --wishing to all a happy New Year)! But before we of the actors. In London everything is done in a hurry; enter Dr Renwick's mirthful house, let us describe its and in the midst of din of every kind, pierced here exterior-and not entirely from imagination. and there by shrill screams, you arrive at your desti. The doctor's use was at the entrance of a little nation, and, with a hand under each of your arms, find village, situated just on the bounds of a manufacturing yourself lifted into the hall. Faint, giddy, stunned, and region, yet far enough in the country to make it pleaconfounded by the blaze of light, you stagger, from sant and quiet without being dull. It stood on a turn liabit, up the staircase; and as your name heralds you of the road, the steep declivity of which was overlooked along, you hardly recognise it for your own, in the con- by its high garden walls. Over these walls many and
many a time peeped children's curious faces, and little cheerfully around them. A dozen or more young mischievous hands often dropped down flowers and cousins were dancing to the music of a piano and flute, pebbles on the stray passers - by. On the other side while the elders played whist in an inner room. One of the road a raised pathway led to the church or two quiet couples stole away into corners; they were Norman erection, old and quaint enough to charm Dr too happy to dance and laugh with the rest. Among Dryasdust himself. In the churchyard was a village these was Isabel Renwick, the doctor's youngest and school-room, like a barn, and from thence rushed out unmarried sister. The old parents looked at her as slie daily a small troop of children, chasing the sheep that stood with her betrothed in the shade of the crimson fed among the graves. Dr Renwick's was the great curtains. house of the place; rich in the glories of a gravel • We shall have another fine tall son-in-law by this entrance and bay windows; and oh, such an orchard ! time next year, Letty, my dear,' whispered the old man Never was seen the like for apples and pears! But to his wife with a merry smile. now it looked cold and stately in the gloom of a De. *Don't talk nonsense before the children,' answered cember night-starry, but moonless. A light covering Mrs Renwick, trying to frown as she wiped her spec. of hoarfrost lay on the green plot, where, in early tacles. spring, snowdrops and crocuses peeped out from the • Well, I always thought little Bell was the prettiest grass, looking prettier than they ever do when set in of all our children, and she will marry best, though the cold brown mould of a garden bed. A warm light last,' said the proud father. “Little Bell' was a beaustreamed over the gravel walk through the half-drawn tiful young woman of seven-and-twenty, whom no crimson curtains. Any passenger on the road would arguments could hitherto induce to quit her father's have said there was mirth and comfort within.
roof, until an old playmate returned from India, rich in And so indeed there was; for it was the yearly money, and richer still in love, that time could not gathering of the Renwick family, of which Dr James change. So Isabel was to be married at last. Renwick was now the eldest son. Three generations The dance ended, and the various grandchildren sat were met once more in the eyes of the doctor's aged down to rest, or walked idly about, arm-in-arm, talking parents, who lived with him. They were now too old and laughing. to have the care of an establishment of their own; and * Do you know what a grand ball Aunt Hartford is therefore this year the family meeting was held at Dr giving to-night at the Priory?' said Jessie Renwick to Renwick's house, where they were spending the decline her cousin William Oliphant. of life with their good and dutiful son.
• I doubt if they will be half so merry as we, neverContrary to general English usage, the yearly gather- theless, with all their grandeur.' ing of the Renwicks was not held on Christmas-day. • Who is speaking about Mrs Hartford-of my eldest This was partly because old Mr Renwick thought the daughter?' said the grandfather sharply. Would that day too much of a religious festival for frolic and sport. she had been no daughter mine!' He had come from the land where his namesake preached, *Hush, John, hush!' whispered his aged wife, laying lived, and died among his persecuted brethren; and her withered fingers on his arm. though Mr Renwick had been so long in England, that * Jessie only said that there was a grand party at the the memory of the heathery mountains and bracs of his Priory to-night,' answered young Oliphant, for his native land was like a dream, still he clung a little to cousin had shrunk aside, alarmed at her grandfather's the ways of his forefathers. Besides, it was on one harsh tone, so unusual to him. Christmas-day that death had first crossed his threshold, “Let her go with all her pride and her gaieties ! and carried away their eldest born from the young There is no blessing on an ungrateful child,' said Mr parents, with bitter tears. It was many years since; Renwick sternly. When she was born, her mother but still they felt that to have merrymaking on that and I rejoiced, and we called her Letitia in our gladness; day would be treading in the shadow of a sorrow now but she has been to us a bitter sorrow, and no joy. Do gone by ; so the day had ever since been changed from not speak of her, my children.' Christmas to New Year's eve.
The young people saw that there was deep sadness Mr Renwick and his wife had been blessed with on their grandmamma's face, and that Mr Renwick's many children. Their quiver was full of arrows; and tone, though severe, was tremulous; so they did not they did not murmur at it. Out of ten sons and daugh- again mention Mrs Hartford's name. The younger ones ters, five were with them that day; some wedded, with wondered ; but many of the elder cousins knew of their children of their own; one was travelling in foreign aunt's great wealth, suddenly acquired by her husband's lands; and three had gone the way of all before them. speculations; and how with wealth had come pride, and But the parents did not count these lost. One only, with pride coldness and disdain, so that at last Mr and though living — had been, and, to use the touching Mrs Hartford were self-exiled from the family circle, words of a father of old, 'was not.'
and only known by hearsay to the children. Dr James Renwick was the worthy son of a good After a season, the slight shadow which poor Jessie's father, and well did he occupy the station and fulfil the unlucky speech had thrown over the circle passed away. duties of a country physician. These duties are very William Oliphant, ever thoughtful in those little things different from those of a London practitioner. In a which make the sum of home- happiness, adroitly village the doctor' is an important person, second only brought to his grandmother's chair the two youngest of to the clergyman. He has more to do than merely to the frock, Mrs Walter Renwick’s bonnie little girl and heal the bodies of his neighbours. If he be respected, boy, and the old lady's attention was diverted. She took he knows all the affairs of the parish; it is he to whom Bessie on her knee, and told Henry a fairy tale, and all come for advice in distress; he is the mediator be- thought no more of her own lost daughter. How much tween helpless poverty and benevolent but cautious good had been done by this unnoticed ruse of kind Wealth; and much good or much evil may he do, as his William Oliphant! will leads him. Dr Renwick was a good man, and he Merrily passed the closing hours of the Old Year. The was accordingly respected. He had married early a children danced again, and then Aunt Isabel was inwife of like feelings to himself, and they had brought treated to sing, and the plaintive music of her voice up a rising family, the elder branches of whom were changed the laughter into a pensive but pleasant silence. now men and women. Two brothers and a sister of After a minute or two they all thanked her cheerfully: the doctor were also round his table with their flock, They did not know—the careless children !—that of all few or many as it might be; so that the grandfather the merry troop around her, Isabel had sung but for one, and grandmother looked on a tribe of juveniles as va- and to one. After a while the mirth grew noisier ; the rious in years, and name, and appearance, as ever clus- light-hearted troop would chorus Aunt Isabel's songs ; tered round the chair of age since the patriarchal days. and so those who could sing, and those who thought
Mr and Mrs Renwick sat beside the fire, looking they could, all chimed in together, to the utter con